The first African American to sit on the highest court is the subject of a film that retells his relentless and epochal quest to achieve racial justice in America

By the time the US supreme court banned the death penalty in cases of adult rape, in 1977, Thurgood Marshall had been a justice on the court for 10 years. He wrote a brief concurrence in the case, Coker v Georgia, citing his opposition to the death penalty, which then as now disproportionately targeted African American men.

Marshall’s experiencewith capital rape cases, and specifically with cases of black men accused of raping white women, was uniquely deep. For while the later decades of his career found Marshall enrobed as the country’s first African American supreme court justice, in his early years he had virtually lived from a suitcase, crossing the country as an activist lawyer known for defending innocent black men from a system of white justice that craved their freedom and their blood.

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